Diabetes has become a common disease these days just like any other flu, cough and cold. According to a study conducted by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the number of Indians suffering from this disease is expected to cross 100 million mark by 2030.
According to WHO, diabetes has become one of the major causes of premature illness and death in most countries, mainly through the increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
In an exclusive interview with Shruti Saxena of Zeenews.com, Dr Suchitra Behl, Consultant, Endocrinology, Fortis La Femme, speaks about various aspects of the disease.
Shruti: What are the reasons for an increase in number of patients with undiagnosed diabetes? How grave is the risk?
Dr Suchitra: The increase in number of patients with type 2 diabetes in India is attributed to decrease in physical activity levels and increase in consumption of food items like burgers, pizzas, chips, cakes, biscuits, sweetened beverages like colas, juices and refined grains, which have high amount of calories. There is also increased diagnosis of diabetes due to improved access to healthcare and more knowledge.
This risk is very grave as India has nearly 65.1 million people with diabetes and is second only to China worldwide in terms of total number of people with the disease. Currently, the prevalence of diabetes in urban areas varies between 8-18 percent in different regions.
Shruti: What are the signs or symptoms a common man notices in case he has developed diabetes?
Dr Suchitra: Patients with type 2 diabetes often show symptoms like increased thirst, frequent urination and weight gain. Infections, especially urinary and related to skin, may be present in some people. Numbness and blurring of vision are also some of the symptoms. If the glucose levels are very high and undetected for a long period of time, there may be weight loss.
Shruti: What sort of lifestyle should one adopt to reduce the chances of developing diabetes?
Dr Suchitra: To decrease the risk of developing diabetes, one should ensure physical activity like walking, jogging, playing games like tennis or football on a daily basis for at least 30 minutes. A goal of spending 300 minutes per week in physical activity in addition to normal daily activity is a reasonable target. People who have excessive weight should do physical activity for not less than one hour daily.
In addition, we should adopt a healthy diet plan avoiding processed foods containing excess sweets and increase the intake of whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables and lean meat. Avoid junk food and sweetened beverages. Drinking unsweetened lemonade, coconut water and green tea are acceptable options. Avoid unnecessary or mindless snacking and learn to recognise when you are full. Have a plan of what to eat and do not indulge in unnecessary eating.
Shruti: Please share with us a meal plan to keep diabetes at bay.
Dr Suchitra: A healthy breakfast can include food items like oat meal, whole wheat porridge or bran flaxes. A typical meal should have one portion of carbohydrate, one portion of protein [lentils/chicken/fish] and two portions of non-starchy vegetables. Eggs are a good source of protein and one can have an entire egg or 2-3 egg whites daily. Milk products, including low fat milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese and 3-4 servings of fruits daily, are advised. Fruits, like apples, pears, papaya, watermelon and orange, can be consumed by diabetics. Starchy vegetables like potatoes should be consumed in small amounts.
The exact amount of carbohydrate will depend on physical activity but people who are less active are generally advised 2 rotis or one roti and a bowl of rice. More carbohydrate is needed if physical activity is more.
Shruti: Is it true that diabetes hits women harder? What sort of complications can develop in a woman with diabetes?
Dr Suchitra: The prevalence of diabetes in women is definitely increasing and the disease is detected later in women due to under reporting of symptoms and not having access to medical facilities. Social and cultural barriers in many families too add to the cause. Diabetes can lead to problems in any part of the body.
Repeated urinary, kidney, genital and skin infections are often seen in diabetic women. Diabetes can also develop during pregnancy, and in this situation the expectant mother needs to take insulin as diabetes in pregnancy can affect the baby. Women can also develop problems like heart disease, paralysis, kidney failure and nerve damage. Diabetes can also lead to bleeding from vessels in the eye and loss of vision. It also can also affect digestive system, leading to problems in digestion of food.